MINA CHEON AKA KIM IL SOON
Dreaming Unification : Protest Peace
December 10, 2020 – January 30, 2021
Opening with the Artist: December 16, 2020 (3 - 8 pm, By Appointment)
“Dreaming unification is protesting peace as the new global condition.”
Ethan Cohen Gallery is honored to present Mina Cheon aka Kim Il Soon’s solo exhibition “Dreaming Unification : Protest Peace.” As we face our challenging times with the coronavirus pandemic and a stressful post-election, our countries remain divided. Today’s resounding words from the US President-elect Joe Biden are “not to divide, but to unify.” And, we do this with our social consciousness intact, with social justice and anti-racism efforts in the forefront, while dreaming unification and protesting for peace.
Art for Life, Masks On!
From the divided Koreas to the divided United States of America, desiring peace “over-there” echoes desiring peace “over-here.” While another pandemic lockdown looms over us, art must continue as a banner of hope and as an essential in life.
In her dream world, artist Mina Cheon's North Korean art persona, aka "Kim Il Soon," paints the Korean national third flag, the Unification Flag, in a new body of work of flag figurations, Dreaming Unification : Protest Peace painting series. Tapping into her stream of unconsciousness to promote a future of unity and peace, flags are raised in this exhibition to recall past interKorean efforts including the Olympics, athletic teamwork, Arirang Mass Games, and other public events that celebrated “One Korea.” This is done as a protest for peace in contrast to the discouraging chaos and canceled peace talks in the Peninsula. New spectacles arise with ongoing threats from North Korea with the blowing up of InterKorean Liaison Office building at Kaesong on June 16th and the 75th Anniversary Worker’s Party military celebration on October 10th parading new ICBMs just this year 2020.
From a series of 20 pieces completed in 2019, shared in 2020, submerged in the custom-made New IKB (Yves Klein Blue) paint, using stencil, spray, sumi ink on canvas, each flag painting is a symbolic new figuration, a body that parades in a procession for peace. At the gallery, these Unification Flags pose as figures floating in space and centering the 10 x 5 feet symphonic triptych, where East meets West in the stormy “Dreaming Unification: Protest Peace (Triptych Flag Figuration East Meets West, Joseonhwa Protest Art).”
For the past decade, Kim Il Soon has been painting in the socialist realism propaganda style, hot pink drip abstract expressionism, and in New IKB dip conceptual paintings (with custom-paint inspired by Yves Klein's International Klein Blue). As she masters Western art styles and dreams for liberation within the canvas as well as from the North Korean regime, the new series as “protesting peace” is done with stencils and spray paint and sumi ink, hitting the cord of North Korean most revered painting style, Joseonhwa (sumi ink, rice paper hanji, traditional oriental painting technique applied to North Korean propaganda contents) and the cosmopolitan expression of protest art style using stencil, spray, tagging.
Mina Cheon aka Kim Il Soon, Dreaming Unification: Protest Peace (Triptych Flag Figuration East Meets West, Joseonhwa Protest Art), 2019-2020, created with New IKB (Yves Klein Blue) paint, stencil, spray paint, sumi ink on canvas. 10 x 5 feet triptych, 40 x 60 x 1.5 inches each. Image courtesy of Mina Cheon Studio (Photo by Cyrus Feldman)
Another exclusive viewing in the exhibition is from Cheon’s personal art collection, a 2019 painting by an anonymous North Korean painter. In the hands of the artist, Cheon took the liberty to extend the subtitle, “North-South Declaration of Partnership: Standing before the Unification Flag” based on the visuals and literature that writes, “We, people(s) must stand in our confirmed stance with respect and sincerity towards declaring partnership.” This painting represents the ongoing asynchronic communication between the artist and the North Koreans and that dreaming unification is from both sides of the Koreas.
North-South Declaration of Partnership: Standing before the Unification Flag, oil on canvas by an anonymous North Korean painter, 23” x 33”, 2019, titled by artist Mina Cheon, owner of the painting.
North Korean text translation: “We, people(s) must stand in our confirmed stance with respect and sincerity towards declaring partnership.”
Artist Mina Cheon releases only black and white photos of her North Korean art collection so that visitors can see it in color in person.
Since 2017, with the support of North Korean defector communities in South Korea, Cheon’s “Video Art History Lessons by Professor Kim” have gone into North Korea in media drives, possibly being the very first contemporary video art screened in North Korean homes. The videos in notel players will be showcased in Cheon’s participation at the inaugural Asia Society Triennial “We Do Not Dream Alone” October 27, 2020 – June 27, 2021, with her art installation in the part two opening March 16, 2021. The videos were first exhibited at the Ethan Cohen Gallery in 2017-2018 and after at the Busan Bienniale 2018 in South Korea, along with Cheon’s most culturally recognized “peace offering,” Eat Chocopie Together, a 100,000 Chocopies installation for the audience to eat for the sake of art and healing.
While the North Korean hermit kingdom announces its presence by blowing up the Liaison Office at Kaesong and continues to strong-arm nuclear arsenals, we know this much, there are citizens who desire communication with the outside world and risk their lives for basic human rights such as access to information and foreign media. Artist Mina Cheon’s exhibition responds to all Koreans, and highlights the demand for peace in a form of a “protest” in oppositional language to a “rally.” Please join in the efforts and view her new body of work that is about global dreaming for unification and protesting peace for surviving the chaos and strain of our daily lives.
Top Left (Past Show): Mina Cheon aka Kim Il Soon’s Video Art History Lessons by Professor Kim shared in notel players at solo exhibition “UMMA : MASS GAMES” at Ethan Cohen Gallery 2017-2018 when the videos were sent into North Korea in media drives. A new installation will be showcased at the part two of Asia Society Triennial opening in March 2021. Top Right (Past Show): Happy North Korean Children, one part of diptych digital print, 44” x 64” each, 2014. Bottom Left (Past Show): Unification Flag and Dream Paintings installation (20 x 5 feet) at “UMMA” at the Ethan Cohen Gallery showing a series of dream paintings stacked like card games in the gallery, symbolizing new ways of playing underground in North Korea, with the center piece being the Korea’s third flag, the Unification Flag. Bottom Right (Past Show): Eat Chocopie Together, 100,000 Chocopies installed for the audience to eat during the Busan Biennale 2018, 23 feet diameter circle,1-foot height, Manufactured in South Korea, the Chocopie is known as the number one imported good in North Korea and has become the cultural symbol of unification between the two Koreas. The Chocopies were kindly donated by the South Korean manufacturer Orion Co.
Below are paintings mimicking the punch-out Styrofoam games that was in the thematically designed “Happyland” Chocopie boxes in 2014 which looks a lot like Kim Jong-un’s Funfair Amusement Park by Pyongyang, which is very much North Korea’s own Disneyland. In 2011, the North Korean Chosun Central Television announced the results of a new Global Happiness Index compiled by the national research team. In the report, North Korea is announced as the second happiest nation aside from big China which is supposedly the happiest due to the mere number of people; South Korea being in the 152nd place and “the American Empire” in place 203, which would not be a surprise if it was in dead last place. This world news funneled by Chinese press and media influenced the new body of work of “Happy North Korean Children” first exhibited at the Trunk Gallery in Seoul, Korea in 2014.
Mina Cheon aka Kim Il Soon, CHOCOPOP, North Korean Dream Sequence Project 2: Happyland Games New IKB (Yves Klein Blue) from a series of Dip 01-18 (Top to Bottom, Left to Right: 07,08,09 – 16,17,18 – 10,11,12), acrylic on canvas, 24” x 36” x 1” each, 2017.
Mina Cheon aka Kim Il Soon, Dreaming Unification #4: Protest Peace aka Flag Figuration #4 (United Copper Eros) 2019-2020, created with New IKB (Yves Klein Blue) paint, stencil, spray paint on canvas, 40 x 60 x 1.5 inches Image courtesy of Mina Cheon Studio (Photo by Cyrus Feldman)
Mina Cheon aka Kim Il Soon, Dreaming Unification #8: Protest Peace aka Flag Figuration #8 (Kim ✓), 2019-2020, created with New IKB (Yves Klein Blue) paint, stencil, spray paint, sumi ink on canvas, 40 x 60 x 1.5 inches. Image courtesy of Mina Cheon Studio (Photo by Cyrus Feldman)
Mina Cheon aka Kim Il Soon, Dreaming Unification #14: Protest Peace aka Flag Figuration #14 (East Meets West Streaming Unconscious, 2019-2020, created with New IKB (Yves Klein Blue) paint, stencil, spray paint, sumi ink on canvas, 40 x 60 x 1.5 inches. Image courtesy of Mina Cheon Studio (Photo by Cyrus Feldman)
Mina Cheon (천민정) (b. 1973 in Seoul, South Korea; lives and works in Baltimore, New York, and Seoul)
Mina Cheon is a new media artist, scholar, educator, and activist best known for her “Polipop” paintings inspired by Pop art and Social Realism. Cheon’s practice draws inspiration from the partition of the Korean peninsula, exemplified by her parallel body of work created under her North Korean alter ego, Kim Il Soon, in which she enlists a range of mediums including painting, sculpture, video, installation, and performance to deconstruct and reconcile the fraught history and ongoing coexistence between North and South Korea. She has exhibited internationally, including at the Busan Biennale (2018); Baltimore Museum of Art (2018); American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC (2014); Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul (2012); and Insa Art Space, Seoul (2005). Her work is in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton; and Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul. Cheon is a Full-time Professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). She received a BFA in painting from Ewha Womans University, Seoul, in 1996; an MFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1999; an MFA in imaging and digital art from the University of Maryland in 2002; and a PhD in philosophy of media and communications at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, in 2008. Currently, she is working on her participation for the inaugural Asia Society Triennial 2020-2021 titled, “We Do Not Dream Alone.” Her digital interactive art piece, EatChocopieTogether.com for global peace, was launched on August 15, 2020 and will remain active for virtual participation as a lead up to the physical exhibition of Eat Chocopie Together at the end of the Triennial.